Blackpool Transport have unveiled the timetable for the service to be operated on the
upgraded tramway from Wednesday 4th April, in the form of a leaflet which is now available locally. There have been a few surprises regarding the service provision – some are very welcome, others are not – but most importantly the new publication is a clear sign that the company is now gearing up for the resumption of the tram service early next month, and that hopefully a full service will be provided between Starr Gate and Fleetwood Ferry.
When the tramway upgrade scheme was originally agreed, it was decided that a ten-minute core service would be provided all year round. However, the timetable starting
on the re-opening day will only offer a twenty minute frequency at peak times, which is expected to require a mere six trams. The service will only be half-hourly before 8:00am and after 6:00pm, and all day on Sundays, which is something of a disappointment. The end-to-end service is almost certainly to be worked exclusively by the Flexity2 trams, and presumably the frequency has been halved from what was originally proposed due to the fact that not all of them have been delivered yet. Hopefully the ten minute service to Fleetwood will become a reality later in the year; otherwise the huge investment in 16 new
trams will be seen as an unnecessary extravagance!
More positive news concerns the start time for the trams. Last year holidaymakers often left their hotels after breakfast to find that the tram service had not even started on Queen’s Promenade, but thankfully this will soon be a distant memory as the first tram of the day is due to depart from Starr Gate at 5:00am on weekdays! The first southbound car from Fleetwood is scheduled for 5:55am, reflecting the reduced journey time as a result of trams being given priority at all remaining road crossings, and also the lower number of stopping points. The last tram of the day should depart from the northern terminus at 11:55pm and reaching Starr Gate by 12:45am. The service is slightly different at weekends with the first departure from Starr Gate at 6:00am on Saturdays and 7:00am on Sundays, whilst the last tram leaves Fleetwood on Fridays and Saturdays at 12:25am.
Surprisingly, the new timetable makes no reference to an intermediate service which was
widely expected to utilise the modified Balloon cars between Cleveleys and either Starr Gate or the Pleasure Beach. It is now unclear whether these trams will return to use for Easter, and it could well be that they will initially be used on an ad-hoc basis until the new service has time to settle down and more crews are fully trained. As most, if not all of the widened cars will carry all-over advert liveries they will need to see a fair amount of use so that their advertisers get good value for money from their advertising contracts.
The new heritage tram service is also promoted on the new brochure. As expected, this
will run half-hourly during the daytime at weekends, and should then begin daily operation during the school summer holidays. As reported previously, a day pass priced at £10 will allow passengers unlimited rides on the vintage trams as well as normal service trams and buses. Cheaper day tickets will also be available but will not be valid on the historic trams which will technically be restricted to tours only.
Probably the biggest disappointment is that the infamous Line 1 promenade bus will
continue to run during 2012 despite the fact that concessionary passes are being accepted on the fully DDA-compliant Flexity trams. In fact, there are times when a tram and bus are timed to leave Starr Gate together and shadow each other along the promenade, followed by a gap of half an hour with no trams or buses! Hopefully passengers can be encouraged to use the trams in sufficient numbers for the bus service to be axed completely in the future, but at least the trams now start earlier and finish later than their rubber-tyred rivals.
Although this information has not yet appeared on Blackpool Transport’s own website, it
is good to see some effort being made to publicise the tramway’s re-opening and hopefully the vast improvements being made to the service on offer will make the system more attractive to locals and tourists alike in the years ahead.